By TIMOTHY COX
Celina Utilities customers inside and outside the city will
be paying an estimated 15 percent more temporarily as the utility
seeks to change its billing cycles and eliminate the current
delayed payment schedule.
Jeff Hazel, the city’s director of administrative services,
told city council members about his plans during this week’s
regular meeting. Hazel said he hopes the change will allow the
city to get a handle on uncollectible debts that can mount because
of the delayed billing procedure.
From June 2002 through June 2003, the city rang up $156,000
in bad debts, Hazel said. Much of the debt can be attributed
to transient residents who might live here only a short time
before skipping out on their utility bill, he said. Changing
the billing cycle could reduce that amount by 40 percent or
more, he said.
A new utility customer who signs up for service under the current
setup would not see a bill for nearly two months, Hazel said.
That means every single utility customer is behind about that
much in payments.
Hazel plans to pro-rate the portion every customer needs to
pay to get current over a six-month period and add it to the
monthly bills. The temporary increase would amount to about
15 percent for most customers, he said. For example, someone
who pays $120 monthly would see an increase of about $20 monthly
for six months. Billing would then return to normal under a
new procedure to keep payments current.
“It will affect everybody,” Hazel said.
Hazel said he hopes to implement the plan soon so the higher
bills come during the winter months when utilities usage is
lowest. By the time the summer cooling season rolls around,
the bills would be back to normal, he said.
To keep payments current, Hazel has proposed a twice monthly
billing cycle, although residents still would get only one bill
per month. Half of the city would be billed during one cycle
and the other half two weeks later. Doing so would help streamline
the utilities office and make it more efficient, Hazel said.
The new billing procedure would mean residents would get a bill
within about five days of the monthly meter reading.